Arguably one of the most visually arresting scenes in cinematic history is in the 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange,” when the protagonist is strapped to a chair, injected with nausea-inducing drugs and forced to watch images of violence on a projector.
With time, the protagonist associates the images with the sensation of nausea, rendering him incapable of committing acts of violence — even in his own defense.
This technique — called aversion therapy in the psychology realm — falls under the spectrum of reparative therapy, and it is not merely a work of fiction.
Last month, the Texas Republican Party endorsed the use of reparative therapy in its 2014 party platform, adopted at the state GOP convention.
“We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle,” the platform stated. “No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”
But some members of the Republican Party, such as Dan Corbin, former mayor of Killeen, do not feel their party’s stance speaks for them. Corbin, who attended the state GOP convention in Fort Worth as a delegate from Bell County, said a platform committee of 31 members decided on that particular plank — and it was not voted on by the more than 5,000 delegates in attendance.
“I know for certain there was not a single bit of discussion on this issue, and I’m not even sure it would have passed if it had been voted on by all the delegates,” Corbin said. “I wish that politicians would spend more time on trying to solve our nation’s problems than concerning themselves with issues like this.”
Bell County Republican Party Chairwoman Nancy Boston declined requests for comment.
Irene Andrews, a lesbian and co-chair of the Central Texas Stonewall Democrats, said the notion of changing one’s sexual orientation is ludicrous.
“If you talk to a lot of (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people my age, they tried ... they didn’t know there was anything else they could be or do,” said Andrews, who lives in Nolanville with her wife, Joan Hinshaw. “The only message they ever had was, ‘Something is terribly wrong with you, and you should hate yourself for who you are.’”
It is that very message, Andrews said, that proponents of reparative therapy are perpetuating — and that message can prove detrimental to the younger LGBT generation, who are twice as likely to commit suicide as their heterosexual counterparts.
“To young people, it’s downright dangerous,” Andrews said. “In therapy, someone is trying to convince them that they’re wrong for feeling the way they do, and that they can be changed. When they aren’t changed, they feel like twice the failure. But no one told them they were OK the way they were in the first place, and those are the kids who commit suicide.”
Until 1994, some members of the psychiatric community considered reparative therapy a viable treatment for deviant behaviors, including homosexuality.
Since then, most reputable associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, have openly denounced the use of reparative therapy, citing its dangers to patients’ mental welfare.
Michelle Dietert, associate professor of sociology at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, said reparative therapy was proven ineffective.
“In terms of mental health, they have shown that it doesn’t work,” she said. “It’s not healthy for the individual. But these things are socially constructed anyway. Our society has decided that the only correct way is to be heterosexual, so anything else that deviates from that is wrong.”
While professional views have changed since 1994, techniques have changed very little, Dietert said. Therapists still use positive and negative reinforcement to curb the behavior, and patients are often prohibited from interacting with members of the same gender.
“That’s another myth — that interacting with the femininity will make men gay,” she said.
Opinions on reparative therapy have changed in other parts of the country.
The Supreme Court recently upheld a 2012 ban on gay conversion therapy in California, and ex-gay Christian organization Exodus International, a once-prominent proponent of reparative therapy, publicly apologized for the harm it had caused members of the LGBT community after it disbanded in June 2013.
In Texas, Andrews and fellow Stonewall Democrats have spoken out against the GOP’s platform. At the Texas Democratic Convention last month, they marched through the Dallas Convention Center holding signs painted with the hashtag that materialized on social media in response to the GOP’s platform: #WeDon’tNeedFixing.
“If you’re going to repair something, the premise is that it’s broken in the first place,” Andrews said. “We are not broken. We don’t need fixing.”
Contact Erinn Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7464.